MPAA Rated – PG-13
It’s 2:11 Long
A Review by:
– The Dude on the Right
Movie Stats & Links
||Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Jennifer Hudson
||Dreamworks SKG / Paramount Pictures
||Only those that like singing.
||It’s more for the dudettes.
||Detroit is kind of scary in the early 70’s, but nothing gratuitous.
||Eddie Murphy has some funny scenes.
||Jennifer Hudson singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” nearly brought down the theater.
||Nothing stood out.
“Dreamgirls” is a big screen adaptation of a Broadway musical, but then you may already know that. And this is going to sound maybe a little strange, but it is the “being a musical” aspect of the movie that I didn’t like. First the story…
Deena (Beyoncé Knowles), Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), and Effie (Jennifer Hudson) are a struggling singing act, The Dreamettes, in Detroit looking for their big break. At a talent competition they lose, and yet they still win. This is because Jimmy Early (Eddie Murphy), a showman in the likes of James Brown, loses his back-up singers when they are sick of his cheating on his wife with them, and slick car salesman, music manager wannabe Curtis (Jamie Foxx), convinces Jimmy that the trio he “manages” would be a perfect fit. At first the girls are reluctant, they don’t want to be back-up singers, especially Effie, but they cave at the prospect of getting their foot in the door. Little do they realize that the door they are entering is the corrupt world of music in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.
Effie has her sights on Curtis, and at first things are going swimmingly for them. Curtis, meanwhile, quickly realizes how the business of music works, complete with payola, and he at first thinks he has Jimmy on the fast track to stardom all until a spotlight show in front of batch of white folk in Florida shows him a new path, that his back-up singers should be their own group, with Deena fronting “The Dreams,” contrary to Effie’s dream.
You see, Effie’s problem is she is the best singer in the group, a fabulous front-woman, only she is on the heavy side, and Curtis knows that Effie won’t “sell” the group. Nope, Deena is the hottie, with a voice generic enough for pop radio. Effie, still being suckered in with Curtis’ promise of her doing some solo material, sticks with the group for a while until something sidetracks her progress. Curtis and the other girls in the group are tired of Effie’s moodiness and always feeling under the weather, so Curtis boots her out of the group and now he is hooking up with Deena. The group changes to “Deena Jones and The Dreams” (sure, you could throw the parallels at Diana Ross and The Supremes, complete with Deena sporting the giant hair in the disco era), on the path to super-stardom, while Effie is back in the real world, trying to find a job, and get on with her life with her child, Magic (Mariah Wilson).
Some tragedy strikes, Effie and her brother/songwriter C.C. (Keith Robinson) get screwed over by Curtis one last time, but Deena sets things straight and there is a lovely reunion of all of the members of “The Dreams.”
Here’s what I really liked about the movie: It was a great story, showing how corrupt radio was back in the sixties and seventies, how songs got stolen left and right, and until you paid the people to get your song on the radio, you were never going to make it. Curtis turns being a scumbag car salesman into an art form in the music industry, and although there might be some personal feelings for the women in his life, namely Effie and Deena, in the end for him it is about money and image. Effie gets some redemption, Deena fixes her backstabbing ways, and Jimmy’s flipping from showman to sap-man back to showman is great. The songs were great, Jennifer Hudson has probably parlayed her “American Idol” stint into a hell of a lot more than a singing career because she was fantastic as Effie, and Eddie Murphy showed that given the right role, he is still fantastic.
Here’s what I didn’t like about he movie: This will be hard to explain, but as I said in the open it was the “being a musical” aspect of the movie that I didn’t like. How do I explain this? Okay, “Dreamgirls” centers on the girl group “The Dreamettes,” later “The Dreams,” and even later “Deena Jones and The Dreams.” Also there was Jimmy “Thunder” Early and his act. For the most part, especially for the first half-ish or so of the movie, all of the musical numbers centered around a musical performance, whether it was “The Dreamettes” performance at the talent contest, Jimmy Early’s bringing the girls into his band, and even Effie rehearsing a song where she tells Curtis she loves him. The rest of the story was done without the songs telling the story, or somehow it was better masked in the background. The movie flowed well, all until Effie wanted to quit the band when Curtis made Deena the lead singer, and they all bust into “Family”, singing to convince Effie to stay. As nice as the songs were, it was the musical numbers that didn’t fit in with a “performance” that I hated, thought they halted the telling of the story, and tossed me back from a great story with great music into “this would be great if I were seeing it on Broadway, but it just doesn’t work for me on the big screen.” And yes, as much as I thought Jennifer Hudson was most fantastic singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” it brought me back to “musical-dom.”
Unlike “Grease,” which for me is still one of the few musicals that worked on the movie screen, I think mostly because it starts as a musical and stays one throughout (it’s not about them being musicians), “Dreamgirls” starts as a movie with an intriguing story to tell, with songs filtering in as musical performances. Then, midway, all of sudden it seems to switch back to “this is a musical and your going to have to wait about three or four minutes for Effie’s friends to sing to her to convince her to stay with the group.”
Okay, that probably didn’t explain why I didn’t like the movie as much at the end as I did when the movie started, but I tried. Here’s the other weird thing I found in the movie, and that was as solid as Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy were, and as good as Beyoncé did trying to play the diva, it was Jamie “I want to be a singer” Foxx that seemed a little lost at times. As the slick manager/salesman he was fine, but every time he was in one of those musical numbers he seemed discombobulated.
I did like “Dreamgirls,” but make sure you set yourself to remember it is a musical and there will be times everyone starts singing in a scene that has nothing to do about singing. In the end I give it 3 ½ stars out of 5.
That’s it for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!